Camp Angel-Winter (ages 7-14) held on January 25-27, 2019 brought us forty-four incredible young campers.

Our campsite Co-Directors, Dick & Amy Lemke welcomed this awesome group of campers. The camper groups (Bunnies, Foxes, Bears and Wolves) and their counselors stayed in cozy north woods cabins in a beautiful winter wonderland setting.

Friday evening was off to a great start with the campers, counselors and camp volunteers gathering around a huge bon fire to get to know each other and play games in a warm and toasty atmosphere of friendship.

Many fun adventures were available all day Saturday including ice fishing, snowmobile rides, ice bowling, sledding, climbing wall and snow shoeing. Face painting, nail painting, hair braiding and games galore were among the indoor activity offerings. A highlight of the day was the opportunity for the campers (counselors too) to select and make warm and cuddly “take home” tie blankets cut and prepared for the campers by our wonderful Angel family member, Suzanne Lemke. Thanks, Suzanne . . . you truly bring smiles and warm hearts.

On Saturday night, Cliff the Magic Man returned again (by popular demand) to mesmerize us with his amazing bag of tricks. Campers and counselors alike took turns joining Cliff on stage to show their skills as “Magician Assistant”. Cliff’s “Magical” performance is always a huge hit and provides entertainment that makes for very “Happy Campers”!

We gratefully salute our phenomenal team of counselors: Alexis Dean, Alli Kovach-Erickson, Emily Kovach-Erickson, Hunter Foster, Marissa Martin, Alayna Perry, Mckenzie Pipes, Casey Ruplinger, Sophie Spiess, Izak Walker and Walker Wendt led by Head Counselors, Myles Lemke and Cali Sanborn.

A huge and heartfelt thanks to our above and beyond Angel volunteer family who make this special weekend everything it was meant to be and more: Dick & Amy Lemke (Campsite Directors), Laura Roof (Camp Nurse), Jon Perry, Jennifer Klingen, Eric Schoeneck, Dave Hughes and Mike Wolf along with the “Wendt Family”-Brian, Kristine and Hunter).

Hats off (and, of course, Helmets on) to our “best of the best” Angel snowmobile team of volunteers: Ozzie Ausloos, Jim Harold, Carla Klein, Penny & Mike McCormick and Jim Rybarczyk for a day of fun and exciting rides for our campers.

A grateful acknowledgement to Camp Manitowish YMCA in Boulder Junction, WI (our winter campsite) and its outstanding staff for helping to make this a memorable weekend for us all.

Life in the Volunteer Lane with Lois Ruediger

by Mark McNease
Originally from the Green Bay area, Lois Ruediger has Wisconsin in her veins. A mother of three sons and grandmother of six, Lois and her husband George have lived in St. Germain since 1990.

They moved north, where Lois started out as the manager for Twin Waters Resort in St. Germain. They then built Fibber’s Restaurant, and the St. Germain Lodge & Resort. Lois ran the establishment for ten years and now owns Business Connection, while George manages an ecommerce business.

Lois’s passion for volunteering began early. She had been a volunteer for Cerebral Palsy Inc in Green Bay for twenty-six years, working on their Annual Telethon and making presentations in schools to recruit volunteers, as well as helping with fundraising efforts. After travelling back and forth, Lois and George decided they wanted to find a local charity in the Northwoods to focus their efforts on. Enter Lolly Rose, who Lois met at an Angel fundraiser in the early 1990s. Lois was struck by Lolly’s passion and drive, and she began looking for ways to help.

Lois and George were friends with Mike Wolf. They were discussing a winter event to bring more people to the area after the Christmas Break, and the Polar Plunge was born. Lois’s sister LuAnn Newton had been diagnosed with breast cancer and been told in 1999 she was cancer free. It was the perfect tribute to her that the Plunge became a reality at their resort, for an organization that reaches out to families affected by cancer.

LuAnn went on to become one of Lolly’s best behind-the-scenes volunteers, working on the Plunge, Camp Angel, and the Uplifting Angels Program, as well as many other things Lolly needed done. In January, 2016, LuAnn was once again diagnosed with cancer and unfortunately lost her life to ovarian cancer. The Polar Plunge became one of Angel’s most successful events because of the team of volunteers who made it happen. The Plunge family have all experienced the devastating effects of cancer through a loved one and that’s the glue that has held them together all these years.

As for the future, Lois and George will have a “snowbird” home in Alabama, near Gulf Shores, where the winters are mild and no one has to shovel snow! They plan to keep their home in St. Germain and share their time between the two, enjoying the best of both worlds.

When asked what she most derives from volunteering, Lois said, “The satisfaction of being able to help others is who I am. In the past, I was involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters and currently I organize the volunteers for the Senior Meal Program in St Germain.”

Lois also organizes a couple of craft shows in St Germain and donates all the proceeds to local youth groups.

Several experiences stand out for Lois over her years of volunteering with Angel On My Shoulder. “Early on I visited one of the Winter Camp Angel sessions,” she said, “and when you see the smiles on the kid’s faces as they enjoy a weekend away from the stresses at home because someone they love is experiencing cancer, that makes it all worthwhile.”

She has witnessed many people who took the Plunge as a tribute to their loved one who passed away from cancer or who may currently be going through treatments.

“The comment you hear most often is ‘Jumping into freezing water for a couple minutes is a small price to pay to help make a difference for someone who is going through this horrible disease.’”

“Once I understood the purpose of each of Angel’s programs and how each one could help in a different way, I realized that all these folks needed was to know they’re not alone and there are resources available to help them get through it.”

For anyone looking to get involved, Lois said, “There’s nothing more satisfying than being able to help people right here in our local area. This organization is operated by volunteers who pour their heart and soul into everything they do to help people affected by cancer and volunteering is a great way to make a difference. Who knows, the life you change may be your own!”

The Seas Part when Moses Huizinga Takes the Plunge

Russ “Moses” Huizinga is a veteran of the Polar Plunge who has never missed a year since its inception. He won an award for the most donations raised, and it’s easy to see why.

He tells his wife Sharon every year “to put the life insurance policy back in the bank,” as he makes it another year.

“I currently live in Minocqua, formally from Franklin Park, Illinois,” Moses said. “I retired from the Teamsters Union 731. I do bobcat work and enjoy restoring old cars.”

Russ restored a 1936 Ford pickup that he named “White Lightening.” He said, “You can see me driving it in the summer and at car shows.”

Moses first heard about Angel On My Shoulder from his friend Doreen at Leisure City. He says that when he learned about the Polar Plunge he just had time to make a donation and get the entry free in to join the plungers.

“When I did my first jump and learned about the organization, I was impressed with all that they do for the children, families and all affected by this terrible disease.”

Moses also loves the children he sees in his volunteering, and he plays Santa Claus whenever he can.

When asked about some of the things he most enjoys from the Polar Plunge and volunteering with Angel On My Shoulder, Moses said, ““The act of getting the pledges, the comradery of everyone who participates.”

“Mike Wolf named me Moses. As he said, ‘Moses divides the sea,’ as all you see is hair, beard and one big splash as I belly flop.”

Moses is inspired by Mike Wolf, along with Amy and Dick Lemke, who he says all love Angel On My Shoulder. “I also love what they do,” he said.

When asked what some of his best memories are from his years with the Polar Plunge, Moses said, “My best memory is when Dick Lemke got on bended knee in front of everyone to ask Amy Linnett to marry him, and of course she said yes!”

He also said he most appreciates his family and friends who support him in this and the friendships he has forged. “God willing I will continue to do this,” he said.

For anyone considering volunteering, Moses said, “I would tell them to ‘just do it,’ The organization is wonderful and rewarding and brings some happiness to the children who suffer from this horrible disease. It is all volunteer.”

Riding With The Angels

Community means everything for Kyle Schmee, who lives in Park Falls, Wisconsin. A Technology Education teacher at Chequamegon High School, Kyle learned the importance of volunteering and giving back at an early age from his mother, Marny, who passed away on February 6, 1998, due to cervical cancer six days before Kyle’s twelfth birthday.

“I’m very well involved with the community doing projects and volunteering with the local Chamber of Commerce and other organizations in town,” Kyle said. “Being a teacher allows me to spend my summers gaining experience and helping to improve the area any way I can.”

Marny was remembered for this same dedication to others. “She once had a craft store where she would provide adult crafting lessons,” said Kyle. “Many times she was up till 2:00 or 3:00 AM making sure a bride and groom had their flower arrangements done in time, and often did it for free.”

Years later, Kyle, an avid bike rider, wanted to do something to commemorate his mother and contribute to others in their situation.

“I thought up the bike ride three years ago while on an icy March winter ride. I was riding a mountain bike I bought in high school with money left behind from my mother,” Kyle said. “I had just scored my first teaching job and was feeling high on life for the first time after five years of college.”

Kyle decided to use his passion for bike riding as a way to raise awareness for Angel On My Shoulder.

“Being in my hometown makes it even more important to help where needed. As an impressionable young kid, you follow those that others talk about. Community members never let me forget who she was and the things she did for this town. I try to focus my energy towards the youth in any way possible. Mom did … so I want to.”

Kyle also serves as an assistant baseball coach for their high school and summer league baseball teams. “When I’m not at work, I’m typically riding my bike since I like to do amateur mountain bike racing,” he said.

When asked how he first became involved with Angel On My Shoulder, Kyle said, “My cousins Shawny and Ben heard about Angel On My Shoulder through their college experience, as they needed to complete community service hours. The ‘need’ quickly became a ‘want’ for both of them and they were involved for numerous years. They were persistent enough that I broke from my busy schedule to give it a whirl and that’s when I fell in love with the camps. So a huge thanks to both of them!” 

Kyle’s original goal was to ride his bike 50 miles out and back in all four directions from Park Falls

“On the map, it’s a perfect ‘PLUS’ sign. MARNY, short for Marlene, was what my family and friends called mom.”

In honor of his mom, he named the ride “Mom’s Angels Ride to Nurture Youth” – MARNY PLUS. “Something my family and I came up with during a family wedding,” he explained.

“I knew if I just started pedaling people would donate. I did some research on what it takes to do 100 miles. It’s not as easy as just getting on the bike and riding. The mental toughness kicked in as I thought about all the people I’ve seen in hospitals and the stories the Angel On My Shoulder campers have told me over the last eight years. All the victims of cancer would love to be doing what I was doing rather than trying to beat cancer. Climbing hills hurts but you forget the pain and focus on the reason you decided to do it in the first place.”

Asked what some of the most memorable things are he’s gotten from doing the ride, Kyle said, “My friend Joe Hall from Glidden, who is in the US Air Force, lost his mother when he was young. He saw the MARNY PLUS advertisements on Facebook and asked me a series of questions, thought the idea was awesome and he said to me, ‘With a family of my own and the schedule I have I could never do what you are doing. How does $5,000 sound for a donation?” $10 dollars makes it worth it. $5,000 makes a grown man cry.”

For anyone considering volunteering, Kyle had this to offer: “Stop thinking about it as I did for two years. Just jump in and do it! Every first year volunteer has an eye opening experience that ‘Puts you on cloud nine for a solid month straight’ (Ben Schmidt).

“Whether you are affected or not by cancer, these kids need someone to help them forget cancer for a moment to realize there is more to life then stewing on all the negative effects that cancer has on all those who are coping with cancer. The kids will never forget and neither will you.”

– Mark McNease

Making Lifelong Friends at Camp Hozhoni

 

Brian currently lives in Fitchburg and works as a Comptroller for a not-for-profit organization in Madison.  This coming February he will be a 28-year cancer survivor.

Michele lives in Madison with her husband, John, their children, Priya and Josef, and their beloved dog, Juniper.  She has been a special education teacher in Madison public schools for 26 years. She also serves on the Dane County Board of Supervisors, representing the Northside of Madison. 

The journey to their friendship began when Brian was diagnosed with cancer in 1991 and found himself at Camp Hozhoni.

“My parents learned of Camp Hozhoni shortly after I was diagnosed in 1991 and ‘dr agged’ me there that year,” said Brian. “I came in thinking this would be a weekend therapy session, which I wanted no part of.  I quickly realized, however, that I was surrounded by an amazing, supportive group of volunteers and other kids my age who were going through a similar experience as me in battling cancer.”

Michele Ritt Family

Michele, a counselor when Brian arrived, took a different path to her involvement with camp.

“During my first year at Edgewood College, I had a class requiring a 40-hour practicum,” she said. “A representative from Camp Hozhoni invited us to sign up as counselors.  I was delighted with the idea of camp as well as fulfilling my entire practicum in one weekend. I signed up immediately. This was 1988.”

Destiny brought Brian and Michele together again when Brian later decided (with his mother for a few years) to become volunteers at camp.

“I knew I wanted to work with the teen group since I felt I related to that group the most,” Brian said. “Michele happened to be one of the remaining teen group volunteers and when we were approached to lead the group, we naturally bonded as we shared the same vision for what we wanted to accomplish with this group each year –  being silly and trying to make each Camp Hozhoni a memorable weekend for the campers and volunteers.”

“I have completely lost count of how many years I have been doing this,” Brian said. “As a group co-leader along with Michele, we plan activities for our group during our breakout sessions at Camp Hozhoni.  The best thing about volunteering at Camp Hozhoni is seeing so many of the campers grow over the years and being inspired by their progress as they overcome having to deal with cancer.”

Michele said, “Every year camp is special.  The families and counselors that come to camp are meant to be there.  Even though camp lasts one weekend, less than 48 hours, each year we become instant family.”

“We are so close and work so well together,” she added, “that many campers as well as counselors at Hozhoni assume we are married. I love Brian dearly.  He is soul family.”

Michele & Brian with Teens

There have been some changes over the years. “I no longer plan the details of camp throughout the year,” Michele said. “Currently, Brian and I assist the Angel camp director with anything that she requests.  During camp weekend, we help train the volunteers and assist the director with administrative tasks. The bulk of our focus is planning and implementing the teen activities each year.”

When asked about her most memorable moments from camp, Michele said, “All of the moments are memorable.  Brian and I have so much fun planning our activities.  Camp itself is so profound, it is difficult to capture it in words.  It is almost impossible to think about kids being sick. And the stress that the families endure is overwhelming.  Hozhoni is an outlet for all of that. Parents can be with other parents who understand. They get information and support.  They get to laugh together and maybe even take a walk. Families can enjoy a hayride. No one has to cook or clean. The kids can be kids.  It’s all about family time in a place where everyone understands.”

“Outside of camp weekend, my most memorable moment with Angel was when I met Lolly for the first time,” she added. “That first year with Angel on My Shoulder, I felt so grateful.  Several Angel representatives came to camp that Saturday morning to see Hozhoni in action.  They were dressed up and so professional. I was introduced to Lolly. Instead of extending my hand, a giant hug burst out of me and onto Lolly.  I don’t think she was expecting that, but hugged me right back. That was my first favorite moment with Angel on My Shoulder.”

 

– Mark McNease

A Tradition of Volunteering with the Graziano Family

by Mark McNease

Born and raised in Milwaukee, Rob Graziano moved to Muskego with his late-wife Renee

in 1994. Two years after daughter Nikki was born in 1995, Renee was diagnosed with cancer twelve weeks into the pregnancy of their son Alexander.  Renee tried everything available but lost her battle October 2001 at the age of 37

Rob said, “Her strength, her faith, and her willingness to share her story through many local speeches and through a nationally-released PBS documentary called ‘Renee’s Story’, has allowed me to find strength and help others through our pain.”

According to Rob, his involvement in Angel On My Shoulder came from this strength. “I had given speeches on behalf of caregivers,” he said, “and that is how I was invited by Lolly to give the address at the annual golf outing in 2002 and then again (with Nikki and Alex!) in 2005.”

Traci Graziano and her family are originally from Stevens Point.  Traci lost her late-husband Fred to a boating drowning accident in 2005.  “Traci and I met in 2005 at a camp for grieving families (Camp HOPE),” said Rob, “where we both also still volunteer to this day.”

Traci and her son Tyler moved to Muskego in 2007, and Traci and Rob were married in January 2009 in Mexico with their children as attendants.  Traci’s daughter Kristin now lives in Hudson, Wisconsin, with her children Madi and Kolin, and Tyler now lives in West Allis.

Asked about the family’s involvement with Angel On My Shoulder, Rob said, “I learned about Camp Angel through a friend at church.  Nikki and Alex attended Camp Angel in 2002 and I spoke at the AOMS annual golf outing in 2002. I quickly realized what a tremendous opportunity this was for the kids and me to grow and learn through our grief, and help others. Nikki and Alex also attended Winter Camp Angel in 2003, and I attended the Angel Retreat in 2003, and we have been a part of the ‘Angel family’ ever since.”

Among his other activities with Angel On My Shoulder, Rob takes photos for the organization. “Taking photos for Angel is a treat for me,” he said. “I have always loved photography as a hobby, so my kids’ lives are ‘well-documented’ through photos.  After losing Renee when the kids were at such a young age, I feel very blessed to have many photos and videos of her for the kids.”

Rob started shooting photos for Angel On My Shoulder during the boat rides at Camp Angel. “The kids usually have such big smiles on the boat,” he said. “I especially enjoy the candid photography I do for AOMS because it is so rewarding to capture the genuine, joyful emotions the kids experience at camp, whether riding on a boat, getting their faces painted, or playing games, especially knowing that their everyday life is impacted by cancer and they don’t get to experience that joy every day.”

Traci and Rob serve as adult volunteers for Camp Angel and Winter Camp Angel.  They have also served as bus chaperones for Winter Camp Angel. “We have brought our boat to Camp Angel for approximately five years now and we provide boat rides and tubing rides for kids, said Rob. “I have also been taking photos for Camp Angel and Winter Camp Angel for about three years now.  I also served as the Angel guest speaker at the 2002 and 2005 annual golf banquet, and Traci served as the guest soloist at the 2007 annual golf banquet.”

Children Nikki and Alex have served as counselors for six-plus years now at both Camp Angel and Winter Camp Angel, and they recently served as the lead counselors for the 2018 Camp Angel.

Rob said his fondest memories of Angel On My Shoulder are when his children got to experience Camp Angel for the first time.  “When I dropped them off on Friday, I had a little ‘separation anxiety’, but they got involved in the fun right away. When I picked them up on Sunday, I heard about all the fun things they did, and I knew this was the ‘right place’ for them, plus Lolly’s hugs make you feel part of the family right away!”

Rob highlighted some of the best things for him about volunteering, saying, “I am so delighted to know that our work as volunteers yields such a fun ‘escape’ for children that have no choice in the reality that one of their family members has cancer.  It is so rewarding to see the smiles on the kid’s faces throughout the weekend, and to know that your work help make this happen.”

He said the most rewarding thing for him now is to see his adult children ‘paying forward’ the love and compassion they were shown when they came to camp as children.  He said they understand the pain associated with cancer in their family and at the same time, they understand how vital an escape like Camp Angel is to their growth. “They really want to provide that same fun opportunity for the ‘next generation’ of campers,” he said. “I have such pride as I observe Nikki and Alex grow into the compassionate adults they are, largely due to their volunteer work for AOMS.”

When asked what he would to say to anyone else considering volunteering, Rob replied, “The healing and learning that comes from sharing your life experiences and your talents far outweighs the time and effort that you put in.  We often say that we get more out of camp than the campers do! Seeing a child experience pure joy from a boat ride, or a snowmobile ride, or from conquering a climbing wall is so very heartwarming, and to know that you had some part in that joy is especially rewarding!”

 

Healing Angels: My Story

Cancer Survivor was not a title I ever thought I’d possess by the age of 41. 

I however, approached it head-on, plowing through surgeries, treatments and doctors’ appointments.  Cancer was not going to beat me.

And although my cancer journey was a fairly positive one, I found that in a blink of an eye, I started to feel lost and quite honestly, somewhat depressed.  It was taking a toll on my day to day life and the interactions that I had with family and friends.

Active treatments are complete, now what?!?  No one is checking in on me.  What should I be doing?  How should I be feeling?  What if I don’t want this “new normal”?  Although I had a good support system, I somehow felt so alone.

After I finished chemo I found that people would constantly say the phrase, “So you’re done now, right?”.  Little did they know I had so many thoughts and feelings running through my head.  Stuff that kept me up at night.  Medical personnel were no longer monitoring my everyday actions.  It really became a struggle to go back to living my old life after this thing called cancer just disrupted everything I’d known and trusted.

And then a friend shared Angel on My Shoulder with me.  Little did I know this small action would give me my life back.  I was a little skeptical at first, not knowing how a short weekend with a bunch of strangers could possibly be helpful.  But after reading up on it a little more, I said, “What have I got to lose?”  I can do this… Go, share, listen and most importantly relax.  I owed it to myself, to my children and to my husband.   I needed to get back on track – and take control of my life again.

Not knowing what to expect, I found myself a little anxious about going.  But the anxiety quickly faded, as I was cheerfully greeted by Nancy and her awesome team of angel volunteers.  As other attendees started to arrive, it quickly became evident that The-Big-C really knows no boundaries.  The room was filled with survivors from all kinds of backgrounds, ages and types and stages of cancer – each of them telling of their own personal journey.  We shared meals, stories, resources, laughter and tears.  I realized that each of our paths was absolutely unique, but when stepping back, we all really experienced the same thoughts and feelings during treatment and recovery.

I gained so much that weekend.  I spent it with a bunch of strangers that I now think of as friends.  It gave me confidence.  It helped me to know that I’m not going crazy.  And that a “new reality” is something that can be embraced and entered into at my own pace.  Throw in some laughter, smiles, survivor-focused yoga, pampering, gifts and relaxation – It made an impact on my life that will not be forgotten.  Most importantly it helped me to close the door on cancer.

And even though I still have periodic appointments, I’ve given myself permission to move on.

If you or a loved one is hoping to figure out what to do during the next phase of cancer, consider checking out Healing Angels, a program by Angel on My Shoulder.

– Tracy Hengst.  Breast Cancer Survivor.  Diagnosed Oct 2014.

Camp Teen Angel 2018

By Kathy Mathie

A small but energetic group of 13 campers graced our 2018 Camp Teen Angel July 13-16, 2018. Camp Manito-wish YMCAin Boulder Junction, WI was our home for the long weekend and the staff and facilities were fabulous. Thanks to our wonderful counselors, Kyle Schmidt, Joel Depons, Magen Zettelmeier, Chloe Springer, Alyssa Brugger and Laura Beilke who led our group.

A nature hike and campfire opened our camp on Friday with s’mores and stories, for sure.

We rode horses on Saturday, many for the first time. Thanks to Holiday Acres for graciously offering us go-cart rides as well. We aced the track. Saturday afternoon included games and canoeing and knockerballs were a hit Saturday evening.

Sunday began on the high ropes course and we had a blast flying through the trees and a pirate adventure on Sunday afternoon included “walking the plank”. Thanks to Captains Steve and Stev-o at the Pirates Hideaway in Eagle River. Sunday evening, we had a dance with DocGary as our DJ and “And we danced (oh) – And we laughed (oh) – And had a really, really, really good time” (Macklemore).

We are already looking forward to next year’s camp, FridayMondayJuly 12-15, 2019.

Charlie Kotke and Peggy Nimz: A Dynamic Duo for Angel On My Shoulder

Charlie Kotke and Peggy Nimz: A Dynamic Duo for Angel On My Shoulder

Mark McNease

Peggy Nimz and Charlie Kotke have become familiar faces at Angel On My Shoulder. Born and raised in St. Germain, Peggy (maiden name Breese) has been married to her husband Scott for 29 years and the couple has one son, Ryan. Peggy works at Ascension Ministry Medical Group in Woodruff as a Certified Medical Assistant, while Scott is a general contractor with his own business of 30-plus years.

“I love being able to go into St. Germain and know most of the locals,” Peggy said, adding that St. Germain is growing and there are many new faces, too.  “I used to own my own business (P.S.S. Inc. Professional Secretarial Service in St. Germain) and started doing small jobs for Angel On My Shoulder.”

During this time Peggy wore many caps. She was on the Town Board, the Board for the Chamber of Commerce, the Snowmobile Club, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and Plum Lake Ambulance Service. “But nothing has or will ever compare to Angel On My Shoulder.”

Charlie Kotke hails from Park Falls, Wisconsin, where he was a volunteer fireman and worked as an EMT with the Park Falls Ambulance Service.

“Since graduating from nursing I have worked with Ministry Health Care, which is now Ascension,” Charlie said. “I’m currently the Regional Manager of Transport Services for Ascension Wisconsin Spirit Medical Transport.”  Charlie manages ground and air ambulance operations for the region that services five hospitals within Ascension as well as other facilities in the area.

Asked how he first got involved with Angel On My Shoulder, Charlie said, “Peggy is actually how I got involved. Peggy and I work together and I became friends with her family – her husband and son. Peggy had worked with Angel On My Shoulder and asked me to help with the golf outing several years back.”

Peggy’s involvement began in 2003 when she was on the Town Board for St. Germain.

“My husband and I were asked to represent the Town Board at the dinner,” Peggy said. “I had mentioned to Lolly at the end of the dinner that we would love to volunteer.  And so it began.”

Over the next few years Peggy, her husband and their son helped during the Golf Spectacular and it kept growing with more friends and family stepping in. “During this time I was working for Oneida County Ambulance and Northwoods Transfer which evolved into what is today, Spirit Medical Transport,” said Peggy. “I worked with Charlie Kotke and we became the coordinators for the event.”

Until recently Charlie and Peggy were involved in the fund raising portion of Angel On My Shoulder. “For the past few years, since we started with Camp Hozhoni, we were able to see where all the fund raising money went to,” Peggy said. “By sending a child to camp or sending their whole family and giving them a chance to get away from everything. By seeing how the fundraising helps everyone, it makes us more eager to raise money for such a great cause.”

For Camp Hozhoni, Charlie and Peggy provide medical services for the campers and their families. “Over the past few years we have gained many friends through this event and look forward to it every year,” Peggy said.

Their focus the last two years has been on the golf event.  “In the past we did both the course and dinner and needed a vacation afterwards!” Peggy said. Currently they organize every detail on the course, “From our friends and family that volunteer and make the day a huge success, to the businesses that donate food, beverages, equipment, etc.”

Added Charlie, “For the first few years I was involved as a volunteer for the golf event – working the beverage cart and picking up trash mostly. Then over the last several years Peggy and I have been the coordinators for the event, which is the largest fundraiser for Angel On My Shoulder.”

In addition to the golf event, Charlie and Peggy have been involved with Winter Camp Hozhoni. “I had been involved in another camp in the area volunteering as camp nurse for a week long autism camp,” Charlie said. “So when Winter Camp Hozhoni was started in 2016, Lolly had asked if Peggy and I would be willing to help with the camp. For the last three years we have provided the first aid and registration support for the camp, along with helping in any other way we can to make the families that attend that camp have an extraordinary weekend that is focused on fun and not illness.”

Asked about their fondest memories as volunteers, Peggy said, “Meeting the Packers is awesome! At camp we meet so many kids that are affected with cancer and their enthusiasm is contagious. I pray to God every night that these kids bounce back and live full and happy lives. Nobody deserves it as much as them.”

As for the golf event, Peggy added, “We had a horrible storm come through at the end of one tournament and the volunteers all worked together to get the golfers and the food vendors get off the course and into safety. It was amazing how everyone worked together.  I’m so proud of this group and can’t be more grateful for Charlie!”

Charlie added, “The greatest thing I get from volunteering is the friendship and the feeling of accomplishment. Working in the health care field, I have learned that everyone is having a worse day than you are. I look at these kids and their families, seeing how strong they are, then I know that I can make a difference to somebody. Whether it’s a smile, touch, or just listening. I try to ask myself at the end of each day, ‘Did I make a difference today?’”

Charlie added two of his favorite quotes:

“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.”
~Elizabeth Andrew

“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”
~Winston Churchill

A Recipe for Compassion with Joe and Kathy Lass

A Recipe for Compassion with Joe and Kathy Lass

Mark McNease

Owners of the Wolf Pack Cafe in St. Germain, Joe and Kathy Lass first met at the Vilas County Fair in August, 1988. According to Kathy, “It was love at first sight.” After dating for a year and realizing they needed more than seasonal work in the Northwoods, they decided to move to the Racine County area to start a new life with year-round jobs.

“Joe and I both moved into management positions quickly and decided to get married May 26th ,1990. We came back to Eagle River to celebrate our wedding day with all our friends and family,” said Kathy.

Joe managed a poured concrete foundations crew and Kathy managed a bar and grill, but their hearts were still in the Northwoods. “We came up to visit family the summer of 1998 and a friend told us the St. Germain Cafe had just gone up for sale,” reports Kathy. “I said to Joe, ‘Let’s go look at it!’” The place was in desperate need of some tender loving care, but Kathy believed that with a little elbow grease, paint and effort it would be fine.

“It had a great location in downtown St. Germain,” Kathy said. “We put an offer in that day and closed on it in December.” On January 12th, one day shy of their one year anniversary, they received a phone call telling them they’d been awarded “Restaurant of the Month” by Discover Wisconsin. That was for February, 2000, and Kathy said it changed their lives. “It gave us the confidence we needed to keep bettering ourselves and Joe became an amazing self-taught cook. We are now looking at our 20th anniversary on January 13, 2019 and have loved all the people and the friends we have met and the employees that helped us get here.”

Kathy and Joe first became familiar with Angel On My Shoulder 21 years ago when Joe’s cousin Linda was diagnosed with terminal cancer and wanted to come home from California to Wisconsin to see family before she died. “We needed help financially to get her whole family here for a heartbreaking goodbye,” said Kathy. “Joe’s family and the Roses were neighbors in the 1980’s in Eagle River, and Joe’s mom knew about the foundation Lolly Rose had started after Dick Rose died. Joe’s mom (Jan Lass) called Lolly and asked if she could help, and without hesitation she assisted in facilitating bringing Linda and the family back to Wisconsin. Joe and I felt if we could ever give back to Angel On My Shoulder, we would. Lolly is truly an Angel on Earth!”

The Lasses got involved with the Packers and Angel On My Shoulder when Lolly asked them if they could cook for the golfers in a silent auction they were doing. That became Breakfast at the Wolf Pack with the Packers in 2007. “We have been doing it every year since,” said Kathy. “Meeting all the Packers has also been a highlight. It is so cool that they offer their time giving back. Especially William Henderson and Gilbert Brown. They are our true heroes! Watching little kids eyes light up when they come in the cafe is amazing.”

Joe and Kathy had to give up cooking for all the golfers on the course but hope to someday be able to do it again.  “I am certain will we always be there for Angel On My Shoulder as long as Lolly will have us!”

When asked about their fondest moments volunteering, Kathy said “The smiles that Lolly brings to everyone she meets. She is a such an inspiration for everyone to get involved. What one woman with this amazing heart can do is amazing in itself.”

Kathy said Lolly has brought a whole town together to help those in need. “Lolly brought 5-year-old Cameron, who had cancer, to the cafe and we played with cars on the counter, and then we went into the kitchen and we let him hit the bell for the waitresses to come pick up their food. Little Cameron and his brother were so happy to be able to hit that bell. It was nice to see him smile.  Knowing Lolly and what she has taught us in the art of caring is my fondest memory.”